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Motherhood's 3rd Act: Parenting Adult Children

Empty nest

Does the time come to push your chicks out of your nest?

Our kids won’t stay kids forever. We’re all too frequently reminded by grandparents and older friends that these early years don’t last. The precious baby I brought home from the hospital last week is rocking first grade now, so I know they’re right.

I know I’ll miss these precious baby years, but from the trenches of early childhood, the specter of them leaving home at 18 sometimes looks like a light at the end of a very long tunnel. What if they don’t?

Marni Jackson, author of The Mother Zone, has written a lovely essay about what she calls the 3rd act of motherhood: parenting her adult son through his 20s. More and more parents are doing it. The trend is likely to grow as my kids near adulthood.

In Italy, that future is already here: 85% of 20somethings live with their moms. The notion that our kids leave home the moment they finish school is really a very recent product of American culture; for most of history families have stayed close throughout their lives.

Is it really so wrong, Marni wonders, to support your child through the early years of adulthood? Unemployment is high, the big world is scary. She explores how families have historically functioned and concludes that we might do well to offer our children free housing and fresh laundry as they’re starting out in adult life.

What do you think? Will you be washing your kids’ jammies when they’re 25? Or does the time come to push those chicks out of the nest?

Photo: Robert S. Donovan

More by Sierra Black:

I Flunk Being A Girly Mama

Why I Don’t Miss Homeschooling

How Smartphones Made The Playground Fun

Stepmothers: Do You Really Love Your Husband’s Kids?

10 Ways To Squash Sibling Rivalry

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